Thinking is a wonderful journey where you explore, discover, imagine and create the world around you. It’s not a static but a highly dynamic cognitive process influenced by various factors and circumstances that change over the time.
Being able to master and guide your thinking process is an acquired skill that is a difference between a good or great thinker.
Traditionally, analytical and creative thinking represent the ‘two’ sides of the spectrum, where thinking and learning are associated with remembering and understanding.
However, this is not the case.
According to Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, analytical and critical thinking are in fact an important part of the creative process. To understand this, let’s break down exactly what creative, critical and analytical thinking embodies.
Creative thinking is generally associated with divergent or lateral thinking and generates multiple ideas and possible solutions.
Critical thinking involves making judgments, asking questions and synthesising information.
Analytical, which is generally associated with convergent or vertical thinking focuses on a logical sequence and finding a solution.
While these three thinking styles are not mutually exclusive, they do complement each other at a certain point and depending on the situation. Your best ideas and solutions occur when all three are effectively mastered together!
Here are 5 tips to kick-start your analytical, critical and creative thinking skills.
In a nutshell, brainstorming is a technique when you generate as many ideas as possible. Here, the quantity is more important than quality. Once you have a set of ideas, you can later shortlist the one’s that are most suitable. If you do not like any ideas, you can always begin the brainstorming process again.
For example, in the case of an online course, you can use brainstorming as a technique within an activity, to get your students to think creatively. For example, in a course about “Mediterranean Cuisine”, you can design an activity that requires students to brainstorm recipes that use garlic cloves and olive oil.
2. Mind Mapping
A mind map is a visual conceptualisation of any topic and can be used to strengthen analytical thinking. It enables you to see all the little parts and all the existing or new connections from an outside perspective.
Continuing with the online course example, mind mapping can be used to design an effective activity for a student studying English Vocabulary. An activity could be that students are asked to break down the word “Ecology” and upload their own mind map related to “Ecology”.
3. SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. This method helps you analyse the problem from different perspectives and search for different alternatives.
As a teacher for an online course, SWOT analysis can be an effective technique for both yourself and your students. While designing your course, you might use SWOT Analysis at the very beginning to analyse your future course’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You can do so in relation to the university or personal future work opportunities. This can also be used with students, for instance, in a course about “Project Management” you can ask students to choose a business venture and create a business plan using a SWOT analysis.
4. Creative Problem-Solving (CPS)
A CPS Model consists of six steps which guide the creative process. This technique is quite unique, as it involves both forms of thinking. Each step begins with divergent thinking (finding multiple alternatives) and progresses into convergent thinking (analysing and selecting an alternative). The following six steps are used in CPS:
1. Select/Identify a problem
2. Research what you know/List what you know
3. Formulate one or more creative challenges
4. Brainstorm the ideas/Generate ideas
5. Combine and evaluate your ideas
6. Find ways to put your ideas into action
As a course designer, you may reach a point when you need to solve a particular problem, such as lack of student interaction in your course. So you can apply the 6 steps of CPS and find the solution(s) (Some solutions for increasing student interaction can be found here).
5. Six Thinking Hats
This technique was developed by Edward De Bono for the purpose of thinking about problems from different perspectives. The original idea involved members of a team sitting together and switching from one coloured hat to another to switch from one problem-solving technique to another. If you do not have a team, this technique can still be used effectively by yourself.
Within an online course, you can encourage students to create new ideas, products or improve existing product by using blue, green and red hats. The example can be to improve upon anything, from the design of a toothbrush to a car engine.
These are just some ways to help develop deeper analytical and creative thinking. Like all things, when practised on a regular basis these skills will gradually shift from a conscious effort to a natural process!